All Work All the Time

This is – as many of us can attest – the recession, and possible depression, of the overworked. Everyone who has a relatively secure income is working their backsides off because in most places you’re doing well to be doing what used to be done by two people. Doing the work of 3, 4 or even more is the norm. And that’s just on the day job. There’s still homes to keep more or less in order, sleep (which, strangely enough, happens whether you have time for it or not), food, and of course, writing.

Those whose job is writing are also working their backsides off because there’s less money for each book, so they have to write more books just to stay afloat – if that’s even possible. If they haven’t been quietly shown the back door by their publisher, or directed towards one of the more noxious “we’re not really a publisher but we’re going to do all that messy publisher-y stuff for you and, oh, yes, take a hefty chunk of anything it makes” agency Not-A-Publisher arrangements. Or they’ve gone indie.

No matter which, there’s more work in it. Every single one of my employed, contracting, or self-employed friends is busier than they’ve ever been in their lives. The authors who’ve gone indie not only need to write as much or more, they need to handle that icky business stuff, and worse promotion stuff. So do all the other authors, whether they think they do or not, but we won’t go there.

So, how do the chronically time-poor (especially those of us who have several jobs, acknowledged or not) manage?

I’m going to be blunt here: I don’t. I’ve run out of manage. After close to two years of the day job running flat out downhill and sitll gathering speed, I’m exhausted emotionally and physically. I’ve forgotten what it’s like to feel rested. Writing is down to the relatively rare occasions when I’ve got enough of a brain to focus on the page, and/or I’m facing deadline pressures and have to push. Fortunately, I can usually manage to shove a decent amount of wordage into a short period of time, although the quality can be… questionable.

I’ve been here before, and yes, I am looking for a way to back off as gracefully as possible. It’s complicated by losing what was my de-stress time to a visit from my mother. Don’t get me wrong, I love her dearly, but I’m finding I don’t have the emotional resources to handle the disruption to my de-stress routines. Routines that have, over the past two years, grown to require almost all my non-day-job time.

How do the rest of you deal with this almost-burnout? Where do you find space to decompress and unwind? And for those of you who are unemployed, how do you deal with the different but related set of issues?

6 comments

  1. Stress? I don’t have stress. I just give other people stress. [Wink]

    Seriously, I’ve been working on how to handle stress for years and I don’t have any good answers for you. [Sad Smile]

  2. Sadly, my stress-management isn’t something I can effectively describe. To learn it, you’d have to back up a couple decades and grow up in an alcoholic household with abusive parents, with an absolute saint for an older sister. Everything pretty much automatically divides itself into Dire-Threat-To-Be-Handled-Or-Avoided-Immediately, Responsibility-To-Be-Discharged, or Trivial-Ignore without me really thinking about it … the problem is (as you accurately diagnosed), there have been so many things in the first two categories lately that I seem to be having a LOT of trouble finding the head-space to write the irreverent, comedic stuff that I seem to be best at. The ideas are still there — and still coming — but I can’t seem to nail down words to bring them to life.

    1. Stephen,

      Yeah, when the first two hammer you it makes life interesting. My method so far has been to do the best I can with categories a) and b), vent about the aspects of both that are beyond my ability/pay rate/responsibility to handle, and spend as much time as I can engaged in pointless virtual violence. For some reason that lets me work off the anger-related stress – as long as I get the time to do it.

  3. Hi, Kate. I am terrible at this myself. I find it impossible to lose anything that resembles a task or ultimate responsiblity – and what makes it worse is that I seem to be so motivated by the expectations of others.

    What I can offer is that things like meditation and stress-reduction routines like PMR or self-hypnosis seem to really work. Tough to fit them in, but worth doing.

    1. Chris,

      It sounds like we’ve both got the responsible person’s curse. I never asked to be the responsible one, either. I just… if it needs doing and I’m there, I do it. Gets me into so much trouble.

      I usually need to get the anger-stress out first, before I can consider things like meditation. If I don’t get the anger out of the system, it will send me into a depression crash – although the way things are going, sooner or later I’m going to hit nuclear before the crash and go berserker instead. That… worries me. Going postal isn’t something I particularly want to do.

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